In the world of black and white, be, err, YELLOW!
Wildlife photographer Yves Adams had captured images of the rare cutie on an island in South Georgia in December 2019, but released the photos only now.
Just like us, Adam had never seen or heard of the yellows. He says that among almost 120.000 penguins on that island, only one(!!!) was yellow!
This yellow penguin was a King penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus), who are known to have a dash of yellow on their collar, along with the usual black and white bodies. This sunlit bird retained its yellow pigment but lost the dark feathers that are present due to melanin.
What is the cause of the yellow and white penguin?
We’re not sure, because the penguin hasn’t been tested, but it looks like a case of genetic mutation. These mutations can cause “melanistic” penguins whose typically white parts are black and “albinistic” penguins that don’t have any melanin and thus are white.
Some scientists think that this penguin is an albino because it lacks all pigment, but the others have spotted a brown head(which means the bird hasn’t lost all melanin, and so is leucistic). Leucism is a genetic condition where animals lose a part of their pigment(except from their eyes) and end up looking white or pale.
Our particular penguin lost melanin from its feathers, and the orangish pigment from its beak, but the feathers retained the yellow pigment and the bird ended up looking incredibly beautiful.
Why are yellow penguins so rare?
Penguins use their colour for their benefit – including mate selection, camouflage and hiding from the sun. If yellow penguins are females, it’s still okay. But the male ones have a hard time finding their mate because (i) the male to female ratio in the penguin world is 3:1, and (ii) female penguins like regular, and not special male penguins. Without a male, reproduction takes a pause.
Another reason is that these light coloured birds can’t easily hide from predators(and prey). While they won’t be able to sneak up on fish, leopards and whales eat them, too.
When will we know more about these yellow friends?
Yellow penguin was photographed for the first time! That means it’s insanely rare. For further information about them, they’ll need to be tested, or we’re going to need at least their feather samples. Let’s hope we don’t have to disturb them or their habitat for this!
Like knowing about our friends in the animal kingdom? You will love Are Kangaroos Our Next Best Friends?